All Saints, All Souls, war, and the election

Our wonderful reader skimac (Mary) emailed me last week with an awesome little story:

Just thought you might like to see a picture of our morning visit to the Catholic cemetery in Denver. [Another reader] Grace and I did it as a name searching ‘field trip’.

I have been making it a point to visit the cemetery on All Souls Day for many years. As Catholics it is a beautiful and pious gesture to remember the souls in need or our prayers. We have done the visit many times with our homeschool group, but last year I decided to also go on my own a few times later during the All Saints/Souls octave which lasts through Nov. 8. Last year during those individual visits I specifically thought it would be interesting to do some name observations and searches. It was really interesting and I compiled some lists of names I was seeing by birth year and compared it to SS records. Also compared the Catholic to a Protestant cemetery for differences in common names. I thoroughly enjoyed it and want you to know it was encouraged by name discussions at Sancta Nomina.

This year I asked Grace if she would like to come along (we invited a few other Denver Sancta Nomina readers but none could join us). It was a beautiful morning of praying, visiting graves of a few famous folks here, discussing local history, reading/discussing/comparing names, gravestone rubbings, and laying marigolds (Day of the Dead flowers). Grace’s kids came along.”


What a beautiful picture! And how great does this day sound?! In fact, as I told Mary, she and Grace totally inspired me because I meant to visit the graves of my mother-in-law and grandparents on the feast of All Souls and wasn’t able to and was feeling bummed about it — but thinking of going during the octave makes so much sense! And it seemed especially apt today, on election day, as seeing the graves of those who have gone before — those who have finished the race — really helped me realize how every age goes through times when it surely seems as though the world is ending — or at the very least, getting much darker.

I particularly felt that at the first cemetery I visited today. I didn’t intend to visit more than one — my husband had the day off (yay!) and he and I and our two littlest made a morning of it while the big boys were at school, during which we intended to visit my mother-in-law’s and grandparents’ graves. Before that though, we wanted to take a drive on this beautiful fall day and find a place for the boys to run around a little. We decided on a local Revolutionary War monument that we occasionally visit (it’s right near the apple orchard we stopped at for cider donuts and coffee mmmmm), and I only remembered as we were parking that it has an accompanying cemetery, which has both very very old graves and newer ones. So we walked on the winding paths through the cemetery, and I marveled at how some of the old graves were so old you couldn’t make out their names:


I really loved this sign posted on the site:


It was this part I loved the most:

You are standing upon land that witnessed a momentous event — an outcome considered unimaginable at the time. What happened here forever altered human history … an army of amateurs had defeated a world power.”

Isn’t that so appropriate for today? It reinforced for me that God can make this election come out any way He wants … even momentous, unimaginable ways! And even if the election just runs its course, at least we’re not involved in a Revolutionary War, or a Civil War (as many of the people in the graves I could decipher lived through), or any of the other terrible things humanity has endured. Many of us might feel that we’re in a dark hour, but things could be much worse. It honestly cheers me to think this way!

I actually didn’t find too many interesting namey things at that first cemetery, but I did feel moved to take these photos:


“Our Katie,” died 1871, 21 years old. How her parents must have grieved!


“My Mother.” What a sweet boy he must have been, who erected this.


Mr. Telfair was born in the 1700s!


Okay, one namey headstone: I was intrigued by Mayte. It looks like a variant of the Spanish Maite, which is a contraction of Maria and Teresa (and behindthename says that’s what Mayte is), but given that she lived in 19th century upstate New York and her maiden name was Wood, I’m wondering if this particular Mayte might have different origins. Any guesses?

We prayed for the residents of this cemetery — it’s not a Catholic cemetery, and it was sort of enormous to me to think we might be the only people who have ever prayed specifically for those particular souls. We then visited our second cemetery of the day, saying prayers for my mother-in-law and grandparents and all the residents of that cemetery as well. (I didn’t do any name sleuthing there though — see this post for more on the names I’ve discovered there in the past.)

All in all, it was an election day well spent, praying for those who have gone before, considering the times they lived through, and being reminded of the everlasting power of God.

We haven’t voted yet — we will tonight after dinner — and if you still haven’t voted and would like some prayers and/or patron saints to ask for intercession for wisdom and peace, this post might be helpful. It’s certainly also helpful for anyone who wants to keep praying until this thing is done! God bless America!


15 thoughts on “All Saints, All Souls, war, and the election

  1. I’m in Denver! I still haven’t been to the Catholic cemetery. I totally forgot about the tradition of going to a cemetery since I haven’t been Catholic for very long…Also, I’m not sure it’s a Byzantine tradition.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do you attend Holy Protection??

      This made me curious so tried to find out. Sounds like they celebrate All Souls Saturdays at different times of the year and in some traditions that does involve cemetery visits after Divine Liturgy. Very interesting.

      The cemetery mentioned has a section where the Ukrainian Catholics are buried – don’t know if there is a Byzantine area as well. Last year, that Ukrainian area was one I sent some time at looking at names: Stephania, Jenka, Roman, Irena, Piotr, Theodosia, Olena, Luba, Paraskewia, Iwan, Nykola, Teodor, Marusia, Mychalina are some I noted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a Lutheran and a longtime reader of this blog (I love reading it) I kindly wanted to point out that we honour and pray for people’s souls but in a different way. Where I live (in Western Europe), everyone is buried together, in the same churchyard, Catholic and Lutheran and other Christians denominations alike. Everyone is equal under God. As a Lutheran, I emphasise visiting my ancestor’s graves as often as I can, my family all does. We visit them, maintain their graves and remember those that have passed in prayer. It is also the custom to make the sign of the cross above the grave when you leave, as a gesture of goodbye. It is important to us to honour our ancestors and those that have passed on. I wanted to point out those differences as I find it fascinating how we all find our ways to honour those that have passed on.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kate, love that you posted our little trip. I am kind of obsessed – a taphophile, I am. So I hope you don’t mind if I share some thoughts and observations.

    Really…I am finding that adding the name exploration to my cemetery visits is fascinating. So many cool observations. Gravestones tell stories if you let them. And they definitely tell stories of the times namewise. When I see a name I visualize a time and then look at the birth year time period and tend to be right on target with a guess. In my observations Florence and Gertrude are (almost) always born before the 1930s and Linda and Karen after. Some are classic and weather the time periods like Elizabeth and Anne/a. Some, like Mary seem like they are on every 3rd gravestone at the Catholic cemetery for certain periods, then drop off in regularity. Prominent oldies like Emma, SO evident on the gravestones with birthdates pre 1920s, become very uncommon for later years, but don’t seem old because it is resurging in current baby names. Madel(e)ine is similar. I wasn’t aware of how common is was under various forms in the early part of the 1900’s. I thought Madelyn was a trendy variation to make it a new name now but I saw several times in turn of the century birthdates – also Moadelyn and Maudlin, as well as the Magdalena and Magdalene variants.

    Speaking of variants – Elizabeth is a fun one. So many Elizabeths across the board. But a smattering of Bessie, Lizzie, and Eliza in the late 1800s and early 1900s but not seen after that time because you have the surge of Betty from 1910-1950 ish. Sometimes just Betty but often accompanied by the Jane, Lou, Ann, or Sue.

    And Crystal…I think of it as an 80s trendy name but didn’t realize it was (somewhat) common in the gemstone era of Ruby, Opal, Pearl. I first saw a Chrystal (birth 1920) then a Crystal (infant died 1985) and thought “oh there was an old spelling and a new.” But then at another cemetery found several Crytals born in the first decade of the 1900s.

    And what of the era of the “lene” peaking in the 20s-40s with the likes of Earlene, Merlene, Jerlene with some continuing to mid-century prominence Carleen, Darlene, Arlene, Marlene while those others completely date one to the earlier part of the century.

    Some random ones of interest. How about Willabeth (1920)? Never heard that one before. One really sweet find was Hyacinth Rose who was almost 100 years old when she died in 1987. How is that for a double floral name?

    There are definitely variations between the Catholic and other cemeteries (especially another old one here in Denver that is prominently Protestant and Jewish). In the Catholic cemetery I found a section where most of the births were from 1800s with a very large number of number of Bridgets (1833-1905 were the dates I found). Later I did see an additional Bridget born 1955 but saw zero Bridgets in the other cemetery. It was clear the section in the Catholic cemetery was largely Irish immigrants.

    So enough of my ramblings. Anyone else?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Love it. Must be early mid-century. I saw one sad gravestone of newborn twins – Darleen and Darell (1955). That was the era of matching or rhyming twin/triplets. Or as in your example general sibling names. My sister in laws were Margi, Toni, Patsi (nicknames for Margaret, Antoinette, and Patricia).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah! That’s so funny! I suppose it’s a variant of the name mindset that leads to naming all your children with the same letter or the same number of syllables, etc., though mostly obsolete now I would guess — I don’t know any young families currently that have their kids’ names rhyme on purpose. My mom knew a family growing up that had daughters Meryl, Beryl, Cheryl, and Daryl! (Not sure if I got all the spellings right)


    • This is an awesome comment. I had to look up “taphophile” and I love its meaning — and I would consider myself one as well! I love all the observations you noted here, and I so agree that “gravestones tell stories if you let them.”


  4. Mayte – Jewish (Yiddish) or Russian?
    Is on a list of names with births: 1870 & 1871, 1893-1895 along with variants Mate, Matye, Mete, Meyte (Jewish) and Mejta, Matya, Majta, Meta, Metya, Mejta, Meita (Russian)

    another reference:

    Liked by 1 person

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